People in Wirral have come together like never before to provide a lifeline for those most at need during the coronavirus crisis.
Community Action Wirral (CAW) – a group which coordinates the work of charities in the borough, has organised over 600 volunteers in an effort to make sure the most vulnerable survive the pandemic.
Paula Basnett, chair of CAW, said several different groups require their support and volunteers adapt their efforts to meet the needs of people across Wirral.
She added: “Much like regular service provision, the project differs depending on the need.
“The most common means of helping has been doing the shopping for vulnerable members of the community or giving a quick phone call to those who are potentially socially isolated.
“Those who do not have the financial opportunities that some have will most likely request support with food and utilities, especially if they have unexpectedly been furloughed by their employer.
“Older communities who have been directed to self-isolate have faced issues with food delivery.”
Ms Basnett emphasised how important the group’s work is, she said: “These actions may sound simplistic, and in a landscape outside Covid-19 they are, however, these small actions are a lifeline for the most vulnerable, marginalised sections of our community at the moment.
“Simply reaching out to a neighbour to offer your help, when needed, enables us all to feel more connected to our community.”
Showing the huge role local businesses have to play in getting us through the crisis, Ms Basnett said: “Although [older communities may] have the means to purchase their supplies, they have struggled to get delivery slots at major supermarkets.
“Local traders have truly come into their own in this regard, with Birkenhead Market traders and local independent stores and restaurants developing delivery services.”
In terms of priority, Ms Basnett said those who have no other means of support, or an underlying health condition, are at the front of CAW’s queue.
Ms Basnett reflected on the unique voluntary effort the coronavirus pandemic has inspired.
She said: “We all have certain barriers which we didn’t realise until the pandemic worsened.
“As a community, which includes Wirral Council, healthcare sectors, community organisations, businesses, emergency services and the public, I do not think we have ever come together in such a timely manner.
“Cross-organisational processes take time to be safe, robust and transparent and everyone is working around the clock to make it work for the benefit of Wirral residents.”
Volunteers give up as much as 30 hours per week to support their community and as well as the vital support previously mentioned, they support charities struggling to survive due to the economic impact of coronavirus.
Ms Basnett said: “We have been able to recruit volunteer bid writers [to help charities secure contracts or funding].
“Whilst charities are delivering frontline services, the demand for their support is increasing yet at the same time their opportunity to fundraise is diminishing.
“These organisations still need to be sustainable, as they need to be operational this time next year.”
“These volunteers have been furloughed by their employers and are willing to share their skills to allow the likes of Feeding Birkenhead, Wirral Mencap and Gallier House to continue to concentrate on what they do best … supporting the local people of Wirral.”
Luke Citrine has been volunteering at Make It Happen, one of Wirral’s many thriving third sector organisations, for over a year.
Make it Happen is a community project which hosts a social supermarket selling food at heavily discounted prices and a community hub.
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Mr Citrine told the ECHO how his team has coped with the crisis.
He said: “We have supported team members who are at high risk to remain at home and dropped them off, but we have still been able to deliver what we do, while upholding government guidance on social distancing.
“We are proud that we have been able to stay open six days a week and engage with the community.
“We believe encouragement and enabling people to embrace resilience in these tough times is a community family effort.
“The wider work taking place on Wirral is incredible and massive respect to all our friends out there, who are keeping up the great work and to those who are at home stay in and keep safe.”
If you live in Wirral and need support to get through the current crisis, you can call Wirral Council's Covid-19 helpline on 0151 666 5050 or email email@example.com